Statins reduce cholesterol by inhibiting an enzyme known as HMG-CoA reductase, according to Medical News Today. This enzyme is produced in the liver, and statins attempt to replace HMG-CoA reductase in the organ. These medications also work by increasing production of low density lipoprotein, or "good" cholesterol.
Statins do not eliminate cholesterol, but they slow down the cholesterol-making process. Other enzymes in the liver sense less "bad" cholesterol in the liver, so the organ makes more "good" cholesterol by releasing other proteins, notes Medical News Today.
Statin medications are designed to lower cholesterol levels by 25 to 30 percent. The most potent statins are atorvastatin and rosuvastatin, according to Medical News Today. The least-potent statin is fluvastatin. Mevastatin occurs naturally in red yeast rice. Statins are sold under various brand names, such as Lipitor, Crestor, Pravachol and Vytorin.
Statins carry risks, according to WebMD. Side effects include intestinal problems, liver damage and muscle inflammation. Some statins may cause memory loss, high blood sugar, type 2 diabetes and mental confusion. Medical science claims the benefits of statins outweigh the risks because this class of medications reduces the risk of heart attacks.
Other ways to lower cholesterol include consuming a diet low in saturated fats while adding fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. More medications to lower cholesterol are niacin, bile-acid resins, cholesterol absorption inhibitors and fibric acid derivatives, notes WebMD.